Opinion: Is this an election about elections?

There’s an old joke among reporters who cover politics, especially municipal politics, that governments hold a lot of meetings about holding future meetings.

And as I get further into my coverage of this campaign, my tenth federal election as a reporter, I’m starting to wonder if we’re in the middle of an election about future elections.

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The Coast Reporter editorial team has been interviewing the candidates for our Coast Reporter Radio podcast, and several of the questions we’ve been asking are based on responses to a Mustel Group survey on the top issues for voters in Metro Vancouver ridings, which includes West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky (available at www.votelocalbc.ca).

The responses ranked environment, economy, and affordability in the top three at 49, 27 and 21 per cent respectively. Of the more than a dozen issues the survey respondents said were top of mind, electoral reform is nowhere to be found.

But, as we talk to the candidates, it seems that for our riding, especially the Sunshine Coast part, electoral reform is at least somewhere on the list.

NDP candidate Judith Wilson told us that she’s sensing a “huge feeling of betrayal” among a lot of people who voted Liberal in the last election, expecting the party to follow through on Justin Trudeau’s promise that 2015 would be the last election decided by first-past-the-post.

Green Dana Taylor said he’s heard much the same thing from “remorseful Liberals.”

In 2017, when it became clear that the Liberal government would, after a series of public consultations, not go forward with any electoral reform, Liberal MP Pam Goldsmith-Jones told Coast Reporter that she’d found strong support in the riding for some form of proportional representation and was “personally, very disappointed with that decision.”

The man who wants to succeed Goldsmith-Jones, current Liberal candidate Patrick Weiler, defended the government’s decision.

“At the end of it there wasn’t one clear choice,” Weiler told us. “That’s what we had in B.C. in the [2018 referendum] when we didn’t have a clear choice. We had the lowest vote in favour of having electoral reform than the last three referendums.”

I think Weiler has a point, and I wrote myself in an editorial during that provincial referendum that I thought there were too many known unknowns for the idea to get broad support.

Voters in the provincial riding of Powell River-Sunshine Coast thought differently, and 54 per cent came out in favour of proportional representation. In the other provincial riding within our federal district, West Vancouver-Sea to Sky, 49 per cent of voters were in favour.

Those numbers tell me that electoral reform is still very much a live issue for Sunshine Coasters and the voters on the other side of Howe Sound, and that could make the race for this riding an election about elections.

You can find our Coast Reporter Radio candidate interviews at: www.coastreporter.net/audio

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